Radiology is the specialty using medical imaging technologies to diagnose and sometimes treat diseases. Because it can be challenging to ascertain what ails a pet, diagnostic imaging has become a necessary component of a modern veterinarian's tool kit. Pets can get into some interesting situations — they rummage through trash, eat shiny objects, find tennis balls tasty, and have even tried rocks.
So, what happens when good pets eat bad things? You can find comfort knowing NorthStar VETS has seen it all. We are always prepared to deploy different techniques, diagnostic tools and to take a collaborative approach in treating your pet.
>>Teleradiology Guidelines for Veterinary Professionals
Types of Imaging
At NorthStar VETS, we employ digital radiography which is a form of X-ray imaging where digital X-ray sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. Digital Radiography (DR) is essentially filmless X-ray image capture. In place of X-ray film, a digital image capture device is used to record the X-ray image and make it available as a digital file that can be presented for interpretation, shared electronically and saved as part of the patient's medical record.
Some of the advantages of DR over film include:
X-rays are extremely useful in detecting intestinal obstruction, bone fractures, bladder stones, pneumonia, heart disease, and cancer. During a radiograph (X-ray), the pet must remain still for just a second. Many dogs and cats are okay with this, however, there are times when the pet may require a light sedation to ease their nerves and keep them motionless during the image capture. Rest assured, the radiology department at NorthStar VETS uses the latest technology and safest anesthetic protocols.
- Immediate image preview and availability
- Improved image quality
- Portability — the ability to digitally transfer and enhance images
- Reduced costs associated with processing, managing and storing films
- Increased efficiency through bypassing chemical processing
- Lower exposure — less radiation can be used to produce an image of similar contrast to conventional radiography.
Ultrasound is another tool that can be used to evaluate the internal organs of your pet. It uses sound waves that are directed into the animal and then bounce off of the internal organs back to the ultrasound machine. The reflected sound waves then form a picture of the internal organs. Ultrasound is used to look at all of the abdominal organs, the heart and occasionally the lungs. It can be used to look at puppies and kittens that are still in the womb to detect heart beats and make sure they are healthy. It can also be used to evaluate organs such as the liver, spleen, stomach, and intestines for tumors or other diseases. Ultrasound guidance can also provide the doctors with a non-invasive way of getting samples of internal organs thus avoiding surgery in some cases. Ultrasound is painless and rarely requires sedation to perform.
In short, X-rays look at the outlines of the organs, while ultrasound tells us more about the internal appearance of those organs. We often perform both X-rays and ultrasound on the same patient since they provide different but complementary information.
Diagnostic ultrasound is considered the imaging modality of choice for many conditions in veterinary medicine. However, the ability to accurately identify and interpret abnormalities is highly dependent on the training and skill of the individual performing the study.
For more information on ultrasound interpretation, please visit:
American College of Veterinary Radiology Position Statement on Veterinary Ultrasound.
A CT scan, also called Computed Tomography or just CT, is an X-ray technique that produces images of the body that visualize internal structures in cross section rather than the overlapping images typically produced by conventional X-ray exams. Conventional X-ray exams use a stationary X-ray machine to focus beams of radiation on a particular area of the body to produce two-dimensional images on film or a digital detector, much like a photograph. But CT scans use an X-ray unit that rotates around the body and a powerful computer. The result with CT scans is a set of cross-sectional images, like slices, of the inside of your body.
Doctors may recommend a CT scan for a wide variety of reasons:
(Adapted from the Mayo Clinic)
- Diagnose muscle and bone disorders, such as bone tumors and fractures
- Pinpoint the location of a tumor, infection or blood clot
- Guide procedures such as surgery, biopsy and radiation therapy
- Detect and monitor diseases such as cancer or heart disease
- Detect internal injuries and internal bleeding
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.
MR imaging uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor, printed or copied to CD. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (X-rays).
Detailed MR images allow doctors to better evaluate various parts of the body and certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods.
MR imaging of the body is performed to evaluate:
(Adapted from www.radiologyinfo.com)
- Organs of the chest and abdomen including the heart, liver, kidney, spleen, pancreas and adrenal glands.
- Pelvic organs including the reproductive organs
- Blood vessels and blockages
Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease and certain other abnormalities within the body. These procedures are noninvasive and usually painless.
Nuclear medicine also offers therapeutic procedures such as radioactive iodine (I-131) therapy that uses radioactive material to treat cancer and other medical conditions affecting the thyroid.